Part VI- Visiting in the Park at Longbourn
Late the next afternoon Lydia and Kitty went into Meryton. They came back to the house with Mr. Denny and Captain Carter. The two young officers joined the family for tea. Elizabeth wondered where Mr. Wickham was, but enjoyed the quiet and uneventful afternoon regardless.
The girls and their visitors took a turn about the grounds as the sun set and the sky altered from bright jeweled daylight to the rich and somber tones of the night. Elizabeth sat on a bench and watched the two young officers pushing her squealing sisters on the swing. She was joined shortly by the dull and vapid figure of Mr. Collins. This gentleman had taken quite an interest in her during his stay at Longbourn. Elizabeth wondered again at the slight pain she felt at the sight of him. Was it just a reaction of disgust to his person?
He prattled on and on about the grandeurs of Rosings Park and the beneficence of his mistress DeBourgh while Elizabeth studied him. He was a pasty, sweaty little man. She felt it might even be fair to refer to him as slimy. He did not seem malevolent to her. In fact, he seemed afraid. She saw the fear rise up in his eyes as he stopped speaking and looked across the lawn. She looked to see what had caught his eye. Briefly she felt a pain in her gut. Then her eyes met those of Mr. Wickham. His eyes glittered like jewels. Charmed, she stood and smiled in greeting, discomfort forgotten.
Mr. Wickham smiled at her and kissed her hand by way of greeting. She felt a wave of pleasure. Warmth and lassitude flowed through her. His eyes held admiration for her that pleased her greatly. She was suddenly conscious of Mr. Collins standing beside her. She shook her head as though to dispel the wandering of her mind. Mr. Wickham dropped his eyes to Mr. Collins' face.
Elizabeth spoke, "Mr. Wickham, you remember my cousin, Mr. Collins. He was at my aunt Phillips' party with us the other night." The two men bowed slightly, gazes locked. The hair on the back of Elizabeth's neck tingled.
Mr. Collins rasped, "Any friend of my fair cousin's…"
Mr. Wickham smiled toothily, "I fear I interrupted your conversation, Miss Bennet, Mr. Collins. Please continue. I hope the interruption is not an unwelcome one." He smiled at Elizabeth's assurance that it was not.
Mr. Collins cleared his throat and then set off once more in pursuit of the perfect description of his patroness and her many virtues. Wickham eyed the little clergyman with obvious impatience, but interrupted rarely. Elizabeth shivered as the three of them walked along together. The feel of the stakes against her leg gave her comfort.
Jane came running from the house with Elizabeth's shawl in hand and called out, "Oh, Mr. Collins! I am so glad to find you here. I must claim you for my sister Mary. There is a passage in Fordyce's Sermons that she cannot make out. It is a matter of doctrinal import." Jane, not accustomed to exertion, was breathing heavily from her run across the lawn. Her face was rosy pink. She smiled at Elizabeth and Wickham. Wickham stared at the pulsing vein in Jane's neck. As Jane led the reluctant Mr. Collins back to the house Elizabeth gave her a smile of gratitude. Elizabeth pulled the shawl about her shoulders.
Wickham licked his lips and said, "What a sweet girl your sister is!"
Elizabeth knitted her brow at his tone and looked at him in curiosity. Instantly on guard, Wickham met her eyes with a spellbinding gaze. They stood there like that for a minute before he continued in a casual tone, "I was amused by your cousin's reference to Lady Catherine DeBourgh. She is Mr. Darcy's aunt. Her daughter Anne is to be his bride." He noted Elizabeth's hand curling into a fist against her shawl.
She laughed in what she hoped seemed a carefree way and muttered, "Poor Miss Bingley!" The pounding of her heart kept her from hearing Mr. Wickham's next several sentences. Color rose in her cheeks as she thought of the previous evening when she had bid Darcy good night and thought his look admiring of her. She angrily pushed down her reaction to the news of his betrothal. Suddenly she interrupted Wickham, saying, "Do you know Mr. Bingley?"
Wickham smiled at her discomposure and replied, "I know of him. I am disposed to approve of him. His general invitation to the officers to his upcoming ball has caused joy in more than one quarter."
Elizabeth smiled and said, "I hope that you will attend." She looked down as she said this, more from confusion than modesty. Her heart still thudded from the shocking news of Darcy's engagement.
Wickham replied, "As do I. It is not for me to avoid Mr. Darcy. If he wishes to avoid me, he may stay away!" This was an idle boast. In truth, Wickham knew he would be unable to attend the ball, a general invitation was not enough to enable a vampire to cross the threshold of Netherfield Park and a particular invitation unlikely from friends of Mr. Darcy. But he hoped to plant ideas in the head of the Slayer. He would find a way to turn his absence from the ball against the Watcher.
She turned to him, "I wonder that Mr. Darcy is able to impose himself so on Mr. Bingley." She thought of his kindness to her in riding to London to fetch a horse she would not fear. She felt a flicker of doubt in thinking of Darcy as the villain Wickham described.
Wickham carefully doused the small flame. "When he is among those of equal consequence he can seem quite pleasant, honorable, decent even. He maintains a reputation of charity to the poor and to his tenants. He is even reputed to be a good brother. His pride manifests itself well in these ways. He plays his assigned role well when doing so assures him of being highly regarded."
Elizabeth frowned. Was Darcy motivated by his pride in his activities as Watcher? The thought disappointed her. She had hoped that he was motivated by the import of their duty and even by concern for her well-being. She shook her head ruefully.
She said, "I do not know that I could be so charitable if I were you." Wickham's smile delighted her in a strange way. Falling further into his thrall, she asked, "What is Miss Darcy like?" As Wickham's face darkened and his attention left her she felt the strange pain in her abdomen. Her head cleared for an instant.
He whirled back to her and said, "I have devoted many hours to her amusement. It pains me to say that she has turned out much like her brother, very proud and very critical of others."
Elizabeth nodded, lulled again by Mr. Wickham's influence. Darcy certainly seemed critical of her. She was suddenly convinced that he was driven by his own pride. It seemed likely that a girl left to his care would be like him in these ways. Wickham's vampiric thrall charmed her more and more.
Again her thoughts returned to Mr. Darcy's engagement. She was hurt. He had seemed interested in her the previous evening. She asked, "I did not know that Mr. Darcy was engaged. What sort of girl is Miss DeBourgh?" Her heart thudded painfully.
Wickham noted her strained tone of voice. He said, "Their engagement was formed by their parents when they were children. I have heard much good of her, so in that he is fortunate. He is a great believer in destiny you know."
Elizabeth looked at Mr. Wickham seriously. He took advantage of the moment and pushed his way into her thoughts. Her thoughts were suddenly filled with pictures of Mr. Darcy with a delicate young woman, a wealthy social equal, a woman he would shower with praise and passion. Pain and jealousy flowed through her. Her eyes closed against the pain.
Wickham fed the images to her and carefully stopped when he felt her pain grow too intense. He remembered Darla's admonishment not to push the Slayer too far.
As Elizabeth stood before him looking hurt and vulnerable he was tempted by bloodlust. Eyes closed in pain, she did not see the change in his face. He thought of The Master's plans for this Slayer come Good Friday- the day of Darkness. Fearful of The Master's wrath, he denied his hunger. He calmed the bloodlust and felt his face soften back to that of George Wickham.
Elizabeth opened her eyes and looked up at him curiously as he stood close before her. They both heard the sound of a horse approaching. Wickham realized that the horseman was Darcy. He laughed to himself and grabbed Elizabeth by the arms, turning her so that they would both be visible to the approaching rider. Then he pulled her to him and kissed her lips. She gasped and her eyes grew wide with shock at the cool touch of his mouth and the strong grip in which he held her.
A cry from Denny broke through the dark, "We must return to quarters before we are missed! Are you coming?" Wickham pulled away from Elizabeth, grinned, bowed, then turned and ran after Denny and Carter.
Elizabeth stood still, surprised. She heard a slight whinny. She saw Mr. Darcy standing by the trees holding his horse by the reins. She blushed deeply at the thought that he might have seen the kiss. Then she decided that it mattered not. Darcy was, after all, an engaged man! Her personal life was none of his concern. She squared her shoulders and walked slowly towards him.
Darcy was devastated. He could only stare at Elizabeth as she approached him. In the dark he had seen that she was with a man in uniform. He had a suspicion that it might have even been Mr. Wickham. That he should see any man kiss her was torment. Personal hatred made the possibility that it was Wickham horrifying. He felt physically ill. He struggled to attain a detached manner. His greeting was very stiff and hardly audible.
Elizabeth grew angry. That he disapproved of what he had seen was obvious. She told herself that it was none of his concern and that she did not care. A voice deep inside protested that she did care about his approval. She grew impatient and angry with herself. She excused herself to the house to change her outfit and hurried back to meet Darcy.
Just as the previous evening's training had been focused and filled with joy, this evening was entirely the opposite. Watching them, Giles was amazed at the difference in the way the Watcher and Slayer interacted. As assured as he'd felt the night before, he now felt worried. This Slayer and Watcher had a great vulnerability to them.
Later that night, Elizabeth had a dark dream in which George Wickham was kissing her. She shivered from the cold. His grasp on her was unusually strong. They stood in the middle of a large, dark circle. She screamed and pulled from his embrace. Darcy pulled her to him and kissed her deeply. Her desire for him was overwhelming. A beautiful blond woman grabbed one of her arms and Wickham took the other. They dragged her away from Darcy to a powerful vampire in the circle. He leaned down, whispered, "Welcome to the Darkness, dear Slayer," and broke the skin at her neck with his fangs. Life drained from her with agonizing slowness. She looked over the powerful vampire's shoulder helplessly and watched the blond woman vampire overpower Darcy. Shadows and flames flickered all around them. Darcy's eyes met hers and he reached out beseechingly to her…
Elizabeth awoke with a start. Her heart was pounding furiously. Cold sweat tingled over her body. She put her hand protectively to her throat. She curled herself into a tight ball, tensing to stop herself from trembling. She thought about her dream for the rest of the night. Just after dawn she fell back to sleep.
Part VII, The Netherfield Ball
The night of the Netherfield Ball had come at last! Elizabeth arrived at Netherfield in a state of great expectation. She had paid very careful attention to her appearance. Her gown was simple yet lovely. There were flowers wound through her hair. From his vantage point inside a window at the front of the house, Darcy stared at Elizabeth admiringly. He sighed with pleasure as she laughed, smiled, and moved toward the house. He was startled when she looked up at him. He turned away in surprise.
Elizabeth shook her head in vexation when she saw Darcy turn away in apparent indifference at the sight of her. She laughed quietly to herself. Next to her, Jane heard Elizabeth's laughter, squeezed her hand and smiled at her in anticipation of the evening ahead. Elizabeth smiled back and then caught sight of Mr. Bingley coming to greet them with great eagerness. Elizabeth was delighted at the beautiful expression that suffused her sister's face when first she saw Mr. Bingley. He offered each lady an escorting arm through the crowded entryway.
Elizabeth looked around for Mr. Wickham. Until that moment, she'd been certain that he would attend. Catching sight of Darcy again, she suddenly felt certain that Mr. Wickham would not appear this night. She was disappointed. At that moment, Mr. Denny came over to greet her. Bingley and Jane walked away, caught up in each other's gazes.
Denny bowed deeply before her and said, "I have been asked by Mr. Wickham to convey his particular regret to you that he has been prevented from attending this evening. Urgent business called him away to Town. I do not imagine it would have been so urgent, however, had he not wished to avoid a certain gentleman." Denny looked pointedly at Darcy.
For his part, Darcy looked a bit surprised to find himself the object of Mr. Denny's gaze. He wondered briefly if Denny were the officer he'd seen kissing Elizabeth the previous evening. He looked away from the pair. He fought to push the memory of the previous evening from his mind's eye.
Elizabeth followed Denny's gaze to Darcy and saw him turn away with a cold expression on his face. She sighed in exasperation. It seemed to her that with all the time they spent together secretly he should at least greet her in a civilized manner before company. How far above her did he think himself in society?
Mr. Denny was soon claimed by Lydia and Kitty. He apologetically left Elizabeth to her own devices. She soon spied her friend, Charlotte Lucas. She walked over to her and the two girls kissed each other's cheeks in greeting. Elizabeth said, "Oh, Charlotte! I have so much to acquaint you with!"
At that moment, the girls were joined by Mr. Collins. The musicians began to play and he claimed Elizabeth's hand for the first two. He proved an abominable and clumsy dancer. When he moved ill, Elizabeth was mortified by the smirk she saw on Mr. Darcy's face. She glared at him. When her hand next met Mr. Collins' the excessive strength in her anger-fed grip caused him to once again lose his balance. She was embarrassed at her loss of control. She prayed for the dance to end.
When it finally did, she returned to her friend's side. Charlotte was amused by Elizabeth's descriptions of Mr. Collins. She was also both amazed and confused by her friend's account of the things told her by Mr. Wickham. Charlotte was quite sensible. She was also not held in Mr. Wickham's thrall. Charlotte shushed her friend on Mr. Darcy's approach.
Darcy had decided to attempt again to convince Elizabeth to dance with him. He had seen her first foray onto the floor with amused relief, glad that the man she was with was so ridiculous and non-threatening. He hoped she might take some pleasure in dancing with him instead. He knew that he excelled in the dance. He suddenly desired for this fact to be known to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth was surprised at his application. Before she knew what she was saying, she accepted. She stamped her foot in vexation once he was gone, muttering, "I promised myself I would never dance with him!"
Charlotte tried to console her. "I dare say you will find him very agreeable."
"Heaven forbid! -- That would be the greatest misfortune of all! -- To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate! -- Do not wish me such an evil," Elizabeth laughingly said. Charlotte advised her not to let her fancy for Wickham cause her to be uncivil towards a man of ten times more consequence. Elizabeth felt ashamed of her irrational anger towards Mr. Darcy.
When they took the floor she noticed that everyone seemed to be watching them, amazed at the honor he did her. She did not see the female watching them through the windows to the verandah. All who watched noted their elegance and grace together. Between Darcy and Elizabeth, however, the dance was as a battle of wills. They circled one another warily. When their hands first met, their eyes locked in a gaze neither fully understood.
For Darcy it was also a battle of restraint. Elizabeth looked radiant in the glow of the candles. When she moved away from him he drank in the sight of her. When she moved close to him he breathed her scent and savored the heat of her body. He was unable to think of anything to say to her.
Elizabeth tried to remember when they had talked of anything not related to her training. She had little success. After some time she said, "I believe we must have some conversation, Mr. Darcy. A very little bit will do." She made some slight observation on the dance. He replied, and was again silent, caught up in her effect on him. After a pause of some minutes, she addressed him a second time with: "It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. -- I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some kind of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples." She was amused at his lack of conversation.
Darcy was quite aware of his lack of aptitude in society, but was excessively diverted by his partner. He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.
She answered him in a very arch manner. "Very well. -- That reply will do for the present. -- Perhaps by and by I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones. -- But now we may be silent."
Darcy was disappointed at the thought of not hearing her voice. He felt quite out of his depth. He inquired, "Do you talk by rule then, while you are dancing?"
"Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together, and yet for the advantage of some, conversation ought to be so arranged as that they may have the trouble of saying as little as possible." She fairly threw this last at him.
Darcy circled close to her again and asked apprehensively, "Are you consulting your own feelings in the present case, or do you imagine that you are gratifying mine?"
"Both," replied Elizabeth archly; "for I have always seen a great similarity in the turn of our minds. -- We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room."
Darcy could not discern how much of her tone was sincere and how much was teasing. He knew her to be competitive, but he did not think her at all unsocial or taciturn. "This is no very striking resemblance of your own character, I am sure," said he. "How near it may be to mine, I cannot pretend to say. -- You think it a faithful portrait undoubtedly." He hoped this last would prove false.
"I must not decide on my own performance."
He made no answer, and they were again silent till they had gone down the dance, when he asked her if she and her sisters did not very often walk to Meryton. She answered in the affirmative, and, unable to resist the temptation, added, "When you met us there the other night, we had just been forming a new acquaintance." She looked at him carefully.
The effect was immediate. A deeper shade of hauteur overspread his features, but he said not a word, and Elizabeth, though blaming herself for her own weakness, could not go on. At length Darcy spoke, and in a constrained manner said, "Mr. Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his making friends -- whether he may be equally capable of retaining them, is less certain." He looked carefully at her. He did not know for certain whether his former friend was merely a rogue or actually a demon. He hoped that she might be able to ascertain what he could not.
"He has been so unlucky as to lose your friendship," replied Elizabeth with emphasis, "and in a manner which he is likely to suffer from all his life."' A part of her mind recoiled as she made this statement, but Wickham's thrall had been skillfully worked.
Darcy made no answer. He wanted to change the subject. At that moment Sir William Lucas appeared close to them, meaning to pass through the set to the other side of the room; but on perceiving Mr. Darcy he stopped with a bow and complimented him on his dancing and his partner.
"I have been most highly gratified indeed, my dear Sir. Such very superior dancing is not often seen. It is evident that you belong to the first circles. Allow me to say, however, that your fair partner does not disgrace you, and that I must hope to have this pleasure often repeated, especially when a certain desirable event, my dear Miss Eliza (glancing at Jane and Bingley), shall take place. What congratulations will then flow in! I appeal to Mr. Darcy: -- but let me not interrupt you, Sir. -- You will not thank me for detaining you from the bewitching converse of this young lady, whose bright eyes are also upbraiding me."
Darcy scarcely heard the last part of Sir William's speech, but he did seem preoccupied by the reference to his friend and the eldest Miss Bennet. His eyes were directed with a very serious expression towards Bingley and Jane, who were dancing together. Recovering himself, however, shortly, he turned to his partner, and said, "Sir William's interruption has made me forget what we were talking of."
She said, "I remember hearing you once say, Mr. Darcy, that you hardly ever forgave, that your resentment once created was unappeasable. You are very cautious, I suppose, as to its being created." She looked at him very directly.
"I am," said he, with a firm voice.
"And never allow yourself to be blinded by prejudice?" Again she circled him in the form of the dance.
"I hope not." He began to understand that they were talking of Wickham.
"It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first," proclaimed Elizabeth in a broad fashion worthy of her tiresome sister Mary.
Darcy decided to face her directly. He asked, "May I ask to what these questions tend?"
"Merely to the illustration of your character," said she, endeavoring to shake off her anger. "I am trying to make it out."
"And what is your success?" Darcy realized that her opinion of him mattered greatly. Her curls bounced in a pleasing way as she moved in a graceful arc and then stepped back beside him.
He watched her curls, distracted as she shook her head. "I do not get on at all. I hear such different accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly."
He released his breath in an exasperated sigh. "I can readily believe," he answered gravely, "that reports may vary greatly with respect to me. I could wish, Miss Bennet, that you were not to sketch my character at the present moment, as there is reason to fear that the performance would reflect no credit on either of us."
Elizabeth straightened when he called her Miss Bennet. Considering how rarely they spoke of non-Slayer topics, she grimly remarked, "But if I do not take your likeness now, I may never have another opportunity."
"I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours," he coldly replied. She said no more. The dance finished. Elizabeth and Darcy bowed to each other, eyes locked. They turned away from each other and parted.
Elizabeth returned to Charlotte. They were joined by Jane as Mr. Bingley invited one of the Miss Longs to dance with him. Jane looked at Elizabeth with concern, "Are you all right, Lizzy? You seem flushed." Elizabeth blushed more deeply as Charlotte gave her a knowing smile.
From the verandah, Darla watched Darcy stride away from Elizabeth. Darla did not like the attraction between the Watcher and the Slayer. It seemed dangerous to her. She smiled in delight when Darcy walked out onto the verandah. She was tired of waiting to see what would happen between this Watcher and his Slayer. Darla cooed softly, "Oh, yes, Watcher. Your time has come. Come and meet your death." She was excited at the prospect.
Darcy drank from a glass of wine and looked out at the stars. The cold night air felt good to him as he sought to arrange his thoughts. Events of the past weeks flashed through his mind. He looked back through the windows into the ballroom. He could see Elizabeth laughing and talking with her friend and her sister. Her defense of Wickham ran through his mind. He was suddenly certain that it had been Wickham he'd seen kissing her the previous evening. He turned his back to her and threw his glass against a tree some distance away. It shattered with a satisfying sound.
"My goodness!" exclaimed Darla. "And just what did that poor glass do to offend you so?" She moved into the light, her eyes sparkling with amusement. This was the first time she had seen the Watcher up close. He was just her type, tall, dark, brooding, and passionate. She grinned widely. Perhaps she would make him into a new vampire companion for herself…
Darcy started in embarrassment. Looking at the beautiful woman before him, he suddenly felt the cold night air more intensely. Involuntarily, he shivered. He bowed and apologized, "Please forgive me for interrupting your solitude." He turned to retreat.
Darla said, "Oh, please do not go on my account. I only wish I'd thought to do the same—the glass smashing, I mean. My mother's tiresome matchmaking drove me out here to hide." She managed to sound plaintive and appealing all at once. Gracefully she moved closer to him.
Darcy turned back to her and saw her shiver. She looked at him pleadingly. He removed his coat and offered it to her. She fluttered her eyelashes at him and smiled in gratitude as she snuggled inside his coat.
She spoke quietly, "Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Lady Darla Alexander. My parents are friends of the hosts."
Darcy replied, "I am Fitzwilliam Darcy. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Lady Darla. How long has your family known the Bingleys?"
Darla's expression was one of surprise. "The Bingleys?" She considered this information, "I believe my family knew Victoria Bingley quite well. It has been many years." Darla chastened herself for not having realized that Darcy traveled with the children of the deceased Slayer. This was news indeed! Her eyes gleamed malevolently.
She held out her hand for him to kiss. As he bowed to her and kissed the proffered hand, Darla searched Darcy's eyes. She probed deeply, curious as to what she might find in his mind. She was amused to find that though he was attracted to the Slayer he had many reservations about that attraction. It was unnecessary for her to probe very deeply at all to see all his frustration. Darla smiled lasciviously. This would be easy and fun!
As Darcy moved away to an appropriate distance, Darla sighed in a breathy fashion. She turned her eyes to the moon and moved so that she was close in front of Darcy. She said, "Do you ever find yourself wishing to throw off the restraints of society and just enjoy the present?"
Her eyes glittered as Darcy replied in a tight voice, "I am not sure that I know what you mean."
She turned and looked directly up into his eyes. Smoothly and gently she began to move within his mind, weaving her way into his consciousness like a snake. Darcy tensed and then felt his body begin to shake all over. Darla held him still with her gaze as she moved in closer. She leaned up, reached her hands around the back of his neck and pulled him to her. As their lips met, she filled his mind with images of Elizabeth, images that had come directly from his dreams. Darcy pulled her hard against him, moaning as their kiss deepened.
Inside Netherfield, Elizabeth suddenly turned white with fear. Alarm overwhelmed her. Jane grabbed her and cried, "Lizzy! What ever is the matter?"
Elizabeth looked about the room wildly. Jane sent Charlotte to get some wine for Elizabeth. Not seeing the cause of her disturbance in the room, Elizabeth muttered, "Air. I must take some fresh air." She whirled around and moved to the door. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she froze at the sight of Darcy and Darla kissing passionately. Jane gave a sharp intake of breath and colored deeply when she saw the pair. She grabbed hold of Lizzy convulsively.
Darcy moaned, "Elizabeth" and continued kissing Darla, caressing her tenderly as she moved her lips to his throat. Darla laughed, a maniacal sound. At the sound of Darla's laugh, Darcy jerked back from her. He looked at her in shock as reality's hold on him returned. His mind swirled with confusion as he realized that she was neither Elizabeth nor the beautiful young woman he'd seen her as at first. Her face was that of a demon. Her brow was raised and thickened. Her fangs protruded in a ghastly fashion. Darcy yelled in fear and horror. He tried to pull away, but his strength was nothing compared to Darla's.
Elizabeth saw that the woman in Darcy's arms was the vampire woman of her nightmare. She threw off Jane's grasp and knelt, reaching for the stakes at her calf. Her eyes blazed.
Darla growled viciously and snapped her fingers. She released Darcy and leapt away quickly. Two vampire servants moved forward from the shadows, blocking her from Lizzy. One grabbed hold of Darcy. He struggled in the fiend's grasp. Lizzy jumped forward. The vampire that was coming at her stepped aside as she lunged at him with the stake. Lizzy kicked his legs out from under him viciously and staked the vampire who had hold of Darcy. Darcy fell to the ground. The downed vampire leapt up toward Jane, who was cringing by the wall. Jane squealed helplessly as Lizzy grabbed the demon from behind, threw him down, jumped to a kneeling position over him and dispatched him to a cloud of dust.
Jane gasped, "Lizzy? What in the name of God?!" She leaned weakly against the wall.
Charlotte appeared at the door and inquired quietly, "Jane? Elizabeth? Are you out there?" Jane stood, reached out, and took the glass of wine from Charlotte. She gulped down the contents in one swallow.
Charlotte looked at Jane in mild surprise and asked, "Shall I fetch another?" Jane nodded weakly. Charlotte raised an eyebrow and went back inside.
Elizabeth walked over to Darcy. He was on the ground with his legs against his chest, his arms wrapped tightly about them. She leaned down next to him and asked, "Are you hurt?"
Darcy was shaking all over. His body attempting now to flee the thrall to which his mind had been subjected. Tears flowed down his cheeks. He hung his head low, attempting to hide his face and his shame. He shook his head vehemently in reply to Elizabeth's inquiry. In a voice husky with pain, he replied, "Thrall. I was enthralled." He reeled with confusion and pain.
He wondered in mortification whether or not Elizabeth had heard him call out her name. She had not, the anger filling her senses. Jane had.
When Charlotte arrived with another glass of wine, Jane met her at the door and thanked her. She handed the glass to Elizabeth and pushed Charlotte back inside before she could see Mr. Darcy. She said, "Elizabeth simply needs a bit of air. It is too chill out there, though. She will return in a moment. Let us return to the ball." Charlotte could tell that Jane was hiding something, but she merely smiled inscrutably and allowed Jane to push her back inside. Jane gave Elizabeth a commiserating look as she disappeared through the entryway.
Darcy suddenly stood. He ran around the corner and was sick. Elizabeth hovered just out of sight. When he came back towards her she handed him the wine. He walked over to a bench and sat down, facing away from her. He sipped the wine gratefully. She sat down next to him. He shuddered when she placed a hand on his arm.
In a weak whisper he plead, "I would prefer to be alone."
Elizabeth looked down and replied, "And if she should return?"
Darcy sighed raggedly. "Good Lord, I feel wretched."
Elizabeth wryly noted, "You seemed quite content when we first came upon you." She regretted her observation when she saw his stricken expression. The mortification was plainly overwhelming to him.
She said, "I am sorry. What happened here? What do you mean by 'thrall?'"
Darcy choked out, "Some vampires have powers of the mind. They can hear the thoughts of others, intrude upon them, influence people. You really must read the books I have given you." His voice grew a bit stronger as he chided her. Elizabeth smiled wryly at his reference to the large number of imposing tomes he had given her to study. She pulled Darcy's handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it to him.
Attempting to bring levity to the moment, she joked, "You must make yourself presentable, Mr. Darcy. I am surprised that Miss Bingley has allowed you out of her sight for this long." She grinned.
Darcy grew even more pale. "Bingley. Oh my God! What have I done? Are the Bingleys safely inside the house?" Elizabeth nodded yes, confused at his agitation.
After a few moments, Darcy's breathing evened out. He still could not meet Elizabeth's gaze, however. He brushed the dust from his clothes. He stood to go inside. Elizabeth stopped him and straightened his cravat. He continued to avoid her gaze. With as much dignity as he could muster, he returned to the house.
The company at large only noted that he seemed quite ill-tempered the rest of the evening. It was also noted that he kept to the company of the Bingley family.
During and after dinner, it seemed to Elizabeth that her family set out to embarrass her as much as possible. She was terribly uncomfortable. She did not understand the depths of Darcy's mortification. She only saw that he avoided her gaze the rest of the evening. Somehow, it also seemed to her that Darcy was always nearby when a member of her family conducted themselves inappropriately.
When her mother bragged of Jane's impending engagement to Bingley and Elizabeth's impending engagement to Mr. Collins, Darcy was nearby. When Lydia ran into the room teasingly withholding Mr. Denny's sword and making a noisy spectacle of herself, Darcy was there. When Mary supplanted Miss Bingley's place at the pianoforte and assaulted the company with her version of musical taste, Darcy was there. When Mr. Collins went against propriety and spoke to a gentleman without having first been introduced, it was Darcy to whom he spoke. Elizabeth felt all of these improprieties most painfully. Darcy barely noticed any of it.
Darcy was locked within his own private hell. He was horrified by the experience with Darla. He was mortified at the attraction for his Slayer that Darla had used against him, and that he might have betrayed that attraction to Elizabeth when he moaned her name aloud. He was dismayed that he had caused her to reveal her secret in front of her sister. He was sickened at how deeply he had fallen into the passion of the thrall. The vampiress Darla was everything he despised. She had the appearance of a high-society maiden, yet she was a demon of hell.
He was most horrified of all, though, to realize that he had revealed the Bingleys to a powerful vampire. He knew that he must force them to leave Hertfordshire immediately. They were in grave danger and owed it all to him. Vampires like Lady Darla did not keep up with local mortal gossip. Having a person they knew to be the Watcher utter the family name of a Slayer though, that would lead them to that family. He had erred, indeed.
The next morning Miss Bingley shared her concerns regarding her brother's attachment to Jane Bennet. She said, "Mr. Darcy, I am concerned for my brother. I fear that he is in danger."
Darcy nodded soberly and replied, "I believe that you are correct, Miss Bingley. This business he has in London… perhaps it will take him longer than anticipated. Perhaps we might all go to London. I believe a change of society would do us all good." Darcy spoke very quietly.
Miss Bingley could hardly believe her good fortune! She replied, "Yes. How I have missed being in Town! It will indeed benefit us all to mix in good society again. This is a truly barbarous country. It has been terribly hard to bear."
Darcy's expression was one of irony, anger, and pain as he listened to Miss Bingley complain of her misfortunes.
She caught sight of his face and quickly retreated from the room, saying, "I shall begin packing at once. I must write letters, and see to the servants, and…" Her excited chatter blended into nothingness in the echoing hall.
Darcy sighed deeply and walked over to the window. He looked out at the day for some time. Then, resignedly, he clasped his hands behind his back and walked out to the stables to speak with Giles.
Part Eight, The Netherfield Ball Post Mortem
The tentative knock on her door came as no surprise. Had the evening's events consisted only of a ball in the neighborhood, Elizabeth would have expected Jane to come to her room before bed so that they could talk about all that they had seen and done. Considering the events of this particular night, Elizabeth was certain that her sister would wish to talk.
Elizabeth called out, "Come in, Jane." Her sister scurried into the room quietly and joined Elizabeth sitting on the bed. Jane looked expressively at Elizabeth and took her hand. She looked as though she might speak, and then stopped. Again, she looked as though she would say something, and again she stopped. Elizabeth could not help herself. She giggled.
Jane reprimanded, "Lizzy, stop. This is serious."
Elizabeth tittered, "All the more reason to laugh, don't you think?"
Jane looked uncertain. She looked down and said, "I do believe that you could convince me I imagined the whole thing."
Elizabeth nodded, "If I could do the same for myself, we would both be much happier, I think."
Jane looked puzzled. "What were those creatures? How did you get rid of them? Who was that woman? What is going on?"
Elizabeth smiled, "Once you get to the first question you really get going, don't you? Let's see… Those creatures were vampires. I stuck a wooden stake into their hearts and now they are gone as well as dead. That woman was a vampire, but I don't know much more about her, except that I'd very much like to stick a stake in her. And as to what is going on… More and more vampires keep showing up around here. It turns out that I am something called a Vampire Slayer. Mr. Darcy is my Watcher and he's been secretly training me."
Jane blinked her eyes very quickly as she tried to absorb all that Elizabeth was telling her. Elizabeth smiled, leaned forward, and hugged Jane tightly. Jane sat back and thought about Elizabeth's statements. She asked, "Training you? What is a Vampire Slayer? What does a Watcher do? What does it have to do with our finding him embracing that creature?"
Elizabeth grimaced. She pulled out the first scroll that Darcy had shown her, the Charge for the Slayer. She read, "As long as there have been demons, there has been the Slayer. One girl in all the world, a Chosen one, born with the strength and skill to hunt vampires and other deadly creatures, to find them where they gather and to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their numbers. When one Slayer dies, the next is called and trained by the Watcher." Pulling a large book from underneath the bed, she continued, "The Watcher trains and guides the Slayer in all techniques of combat, both physical and mental. The first duty of the Watcher is to give the Slayer every weapon she needs to survive, including the weapon of knowledge." She smiled wryly, "That is what he is supposed to do. It has nothing to do with embracing that creature. He blamed that on the effects of thrall."
From another book, Elizabeth read of the hypnotic trance that some vampires could bring to their victims, taking thoughts from their minds and amplifying them. A powerful vampire could make a human see things that were not there, even feel things that were not real. With real feelings and emotions at the root, thrall was awesomely effective.
Jane pondered this. From what she had heard, Mr. Darcy certainly had some real feelings for the vampire to tap in to. She remembered his voice as he'd moaned Elizabeth's name and blushed in recollection. His voice had been full of passion and longing. No wonder he had been so taken in! Some of the description in the volume detailed the effects of the thrall further. Reading through it Jane wondered if Elizabeth might have been victim of something similar. She had not been herself recently. Jane looked at her sister with fearful curiosity. Elizabeth's return gaze did not invite Jane to inquire.
Jane turned her attention to the books. She asked, "Where did you get these volumes? They are very old looking. I should not wonder that they are quite valuable."
Elizabeth smiled and said, "Just look under my bed! There are definitely advantages to having a wealthy Watcher."
Jane pulled back the coverlet and leaned down to look under Elizabeth's bed. The area there was crowded with magnificent reference volumes. Jane scrutinized the stacks and stacks of tomes. She asked, "You've read all of these books?"
Leaning upside down Elizabeth looked in dismay at the pile of books that had grown up under her bed. Most of them had beautiful old leather covers with intricately designed titles. Looked at dispassionately they were beautiful antiques. When she read over the titles, however, the beauty was offset by their sinister subject matter. As the blood rushed to her head, Elizabeth tossed aside tomes entitled "Bringing Death to the Undead," "Vampires, Demons, and Other Evil Spirits," "Eternity in the Circle of Darkness," "Diary of Dominique, the Vampire Slayer," "Watching the Wicked," and more.
Elizabeth sat upright and smiled ruefully, "I confess not. I have been so busy training and patrolling that I have not given them the time they are due."
Jane looked at Elizabeth reproachfully. "If any sister of mine is to be a Vampire Slayer, she will take the time to complete her studies. The day may come when knowledge is your greatest weapon, Lizzy."
Elizabeth smiled and said, "Yes, ma'am. I shall apply myself to my studies for your sake."
Jane brushed her hair back from her forehead and smiled slightly. She said, "I should think it might be for your own sake. What training, Lizzy? Tell me about it."
The two sisters talked long into the night as Elizabeth shared the events of the past month. It felt good to be able to share it all with someone. Well, almost all. Elizabeth found herself confused about Mr. Darcy. So many contradictions and so much embarrassment were tied up in that relationship that Elizabeth could not put it into words. Jane noticed this, but did not press.
The next morning at breakfast Elizabeth teased Jane about how attentive Mr. Bingley had been to her the previous evening. Jane blushed with pleasure. It seemed more likely all the time that he would soon propose. Jane glowed with a contentment that pleased all her family.
The day was spent in quiet pursuits. Lizzy spent much of the day in her room reading. Jane's observations about the resources Darcy had given her weighed heavily on her conscience. Additionally, she found information on defense techniques that she'd been executing incorrectly within the very first volume she read. She soberly realized that the knowledge in these books was vital to her safety.
Elizabeth was very pensive as she watched the sunset. There was much she wished to discuss with Darcy. As she had read she had learned information that explained things he'd said to prompt her during their training. She was amazed both at how much he had managed to teach her in so short a time and at how much patience he had exhibited. It must have been obvious to him how little she'd actually read of the tomes he'd entrusted to her. She felt humble as she realized how much he had already given to her.
She was very eager to meet with Darcy again. Any delay would have left her feeling impatient, but the evening that unfolded was beyond her imagining. Elizabeth was horrified to find her mother forcing her to be alone with Mr. Collins to hear his proposal of marriage.
That Mr. Collins expected a positive, if not actually grateful, reply to his proposal was obvious. Tenderness of heart would not allow Elizabeth to laugh at him outright, though as he persisted in his refusal to take 'no' for an answer she became more and more tempted to do so. He said, "You must become my bride. You are to come to Kent with me. My standing with the noble family of De Bourgh recommends my suit. I am to inherit your family's estate. You are by no means assured of ever receiving another proposal, poor as you are. You must marry me and come to Kent."
Elizabeth stood firm in her resolution to refuse Mr. Collins. Though her mother tried to forward Mr. Collins' suit and force Elizabeth to marry him, she would not do so. Fortunately, Elizabeth found an ally in her father. Mr. Bennet declared his resolution of never speaking to Elizabeth again if she DID accept Mr. Collins. As far as he and Elizabeth were concerned, all discussion on the matter was at an end. Mrs. Bennet did not partake of their point of view.
She hounded Elizabeth throughout the entire evening, preventing her from leaving the house to meet with Darcy or patrol the Meryton area for vampires. Mr. Collins lurked around the downstairs rooms, seemingly hopeful that Mrs. Bennet's urgings would succeed. He seemed simultaneously offended, angry, and… fearful. Elizabeth took to her room to avoid both her mother and Mr. Collins, seeking solace in her studies. Jane checked outside the house time and again throughout the evening, looking for Mr. Darcy so that she might explain Elizabeth's inability to leave the house. She never saw him.
Throughout the next day, Mrs. Bennet continued to harangue Elizabeth about her refusal of Mr. Collins' marriage proposal. Lydia and Kitty became very tired of watching their mother's tirade and asked if they might go into Meryton to visit. As they scampered out to the road they met Charlotte Lucas.
"Why Charlotte!" exclaimed Lydia. "What do you do here?"
"I am come to visit Elizabeth," replied Charlotte. Both the Bennet girls broke into fits of giggling at her reply.
Kitty said, "What do you think? Mr. Collins has proposed to Lizzy and she has refused him. Mama is beside herself. He says he will not stay another night here."
Charlotte replied mildly, "Well I am sorry for him, though I cannot say I am surprised." Then an idea occurred to her. "Do you think I should invite him to dine with my family?"
Lydia replied, "Aye. Do, do! For he has been in high dudgeon since her refusal last night. Take him away and feed him!" The two girls laughed and ran toward Meryton. Charlotte squared her shoulders and entered Longbourn.
Just after sunset, she invited Mr. Collins to her home for dinner. At first he did not seem inclined to accept her offer. But when he observed her affectionate exchange with Elizabeth, he changed his mind. As Charlotte and Mr. Collins walked through the darkness toward Lucas Lodge he asked, "You are very close friends with Miss Elizabeth, are you not?"
Puzzled, Charlotte replied, "Yes. We have always been very close. I find Elizabeth very good company. Though we do not always agree on matters of import, she is dear to me."
Mr. Collins asked, "Were you to leave this country, do you think you would invite her to visit you?"
Charlotte stopped and stared at Mr. Collins in undisguised wonder. She replied warily, "I suppose that would be the case. If it were pleasing to those I was with, I would do so. If however, it would bring distress…"
Mr. Collins interrupted, "No, my dear Miss Lucas. I only mean that I would not wish anyone to think me so mean as to resent… my cousin's bad judgment. Forgive me. I am being indiscreet. It is only that you seem very much someone with whom I can talk freely. Your warmth and gentleness are so very soothing." He looked at her in a way he intended to be charming.
Charlotte looked at the grossly smiling man before her. In her twenty seven years she'd never heard anything so strange or anything so close to a proposal of marriage. She smiled at Mr. Collins and took his arm. The two walked the rest of the way to Lucas Lodge engaged in their own peculiar version of courtly conversation.
That evening Lizzy was finally able to leave the house. She walked out across the lawn to the woods at the edge. There she found Giles holding Buttercup's reins in one hand and those of his own horse in the other. Lizzy found herself disappointed at Darcy's absence.
Giles explained, "Mr. Darcy has had to go to London on business, Miss. I do not know when he will return. He asked me to urge you to patrol the town at least every other night and also asks that you patrol the properties around Netherfield thoroughly and with great care. He will contact you when he can."
Lizzy nodded and mounted Buttercup. She felt curiously hollow inside. Unwilling to allow Giles to see this, she masked her disappointment and tried to appear determined. She wondered why Darcy particularly wished for her to patrol the area around Netherfield. He'd always indicated that she should stick close to the cemetery in Meryton. Puzzled and dismayed she did as instructed.
Strangely enough, she did find two vampires in the gardens at Netherfield. She threw one so that he crashed into a tree and fell unconscious. The other presented more of a challenge. He pinned her against a wall, his fangs bared towards her throat. She used a trick that Darcy had taught her during one of their training sessions to slip free, then staked the surprised vampire. This accomplished, she walked over to the unconscious vampire and pounded the stake through his heart into the ground. No vampires appeared in Meryton that night. She completed her patrol and found Giles waiting for her at the lawn's edge at Longbourn.
Giles asked, "How was your evening?"
Lizzy tiredly replied, "I found two vampires near Netherfield, but no others. You must take great care in returning to that area. How did Darcy know they would be there?"
Giles smiled, "Sometimes a Watcher just knows."
Lizzy petted Buttercup's mane, looked at the ground, and asked, "Giles? May I ask you something?"
Giles said, "Of course, Miss." He looked wary.
She bit her lip and said, "If you do not wish to answer, you have only to say so. I was only wondering… what caused you to retire as a Watcher?" She looked up and saw a shadow of sadness flicker over his face.
Giles grimaced and replied, "My Slayer was killed, Miss. One time of that was all I could take. Old Mr. Darcy survived that three times. Never did see how he did it. He said that a Watcher must maintain a separate life from the Slayer in order to do his job well. I was not cut out for that. So, I decided to retire and hand the job over to him. He did it until his death. He raised young Fitzwilliam to be the same kind of Watcher he was, though I think the young master is more different from his father than he knows. You are in good hands. He will see to it that you have all the resources you need." The sadness in Giles' expression deepened.
Gently, Lizzy asked, "How long did you work with your Slayer?"
Giles replied, "Ten years."
Lizzy said, "How long did Old Mr. Darcy work with his?"
Giles answered, "Five years with the first. Only three years with the second, but ten with the third."
Lizzy said, "It sounds like you did well, Giles." She felt strange to joke about the life span of Slayers, but wished very much to comfort the kind man.
Giles looked at her seriously and said, "Not well enough, Miss." He mounted his horse and took Buttercup's reins. Then, as he turned to ride away, he said, "Good night, Miss. Please take care of yourself." Giles' heart ached as he rode away. Despite himself he'd come to like this Slayer very much. He dreaded the possibility of something happening to her.
Lizzy watched Giles leave and turned to go into the house. She thought a long time about her conversation with Mr. Giles. She also wondered about Darcy's trip to London and when he would return. These thoughts kept her awake for some time.
When she did fall asleep, she again had the nightmare about the dark circle. She awoke with a start. To put the terror of the nightmare from her mind, she thought on the dream part where Darcy kissed her. She fell to sleep with a smile on her face.
Author's Note: The charge of the Slayer is directly quoted from the TV show "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer", property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, et al.
Part Nine, Visions
About the same time Elizabeth finally drifted off to sleep, Darcy was sitting on the edge of his sister's bed watching the fire in her room die down. Georgiana's screams had frightened him from his slumber. Her explanation of their origin left him unable to return to sleep. He had held her until her fearful shaking died down and then watched over her with deep concern as she finally returned to sleep.
Looking at the embers' glow, Darcy thought of the vision Georgiana had described.
"I was outside alone in the dark… in a garden, and there were monsters!" she'd cried out.
He'd nearly laughed with relief. Then she continued. "There were two of them. I leapt from my horse and ran at them with a stake in my hand. I grabbed one and threw him into a statue. He fell unconscious. The other was much stronger. He grabbed hold of me and began to lower his fangs to my throat. I thought of you telling me how to escape such a hold. I followed what you'd said and got away! Then I destroyed the monster with my stake and finished off the second one, too!" Georgiana's eyes were wide with fear. Her face was pale.
"William, I was not me. I was someone else. Or I was seeing what someone else was doing, I'm not sure. It was all so real. I'm just glad that she was strong and knew what to do. I would not. That's why I think I was someone else. I kept worrying about not knowing. I was afraid!" Georgiana held onto him fearfully.
Darcy was sober as he considered what his sister described. Over the years, she'd had many such nightmares. She sometimes knew things without being told. This contributed to her nervousness and shyness. She feared that people would discover that she was different. She had made Darcy promise to keep her visions a secret.
He suspected that he knew the source of this most recent vision. His own thoughts were so much with the Slayer that undoubtedly Georgiana was focused on her too. He hated to see his sister upset. Even more disturbing, though, was the thought of Elizabeth in danger. He wondered if the fear were all Georgiana's… or whether Elizabeth felt such fear too.
Returning to his chamber, he saw that Bingley's door was ajar. He peered through the open doorway and saw that the chamber was empty. Darcy walked downstairs. He found Bingley in the library some moments later. Bingley had a candle and was looking over the titles on the shelves. He looked up as Darcy entered the room and smiled faintly.
"I hope that Georgiana has returned to sleep. From the sound of it she must have had a dreadful nightmare." Bingley said.
Darcy replied, "She is asleep again. Yes, she did have a bad dream. I am sorry that your rest was disturbed. You should try to go back to sleep now." He was pleased by his friend's concern for his sister. He'd sometimes thought that Bingley might be one man he could trust to take proper care of Georgiana and make her a good husband.
Bingley laughed, "I was going to try to read myself to sleep, but I cannot seem to find a book that is not guaranteed to give me nightmares like Georgiana's. You do realize that your collection is a bit on the morbid side, don't you? With tales such as these for entertainment it is a wonder we don't all have nightmares."
Darcy stifled a laugh. He valued Bingley's sense of humor and goodness mightily. He was glad that his friend had agreed to stay with him. Not only was it the best way to assure his safety, but Darcy knew he benefited from his friend's optimistic outlook. His concern for his friend was great, however. Not that his concern was weighted only by regard, but Bingley's sisters never went anywhere without a large party of friends about. Bingley was less predictable. With vampires out hunting the offspring of an old enemy for sport, it was best to stay among friends.
Bingley pulled a book from the shelf and read the title, "The Darkest Night, Doom within the Circle of Death… really, Darcy, you don't read such books for amusement, do you?"
Darcy took the book Bingley held out and looked at the illustration on the cover. It was a horrific scene, showing a horde of demons surrounding a young woman. He tried to gloss over Bingley's curiosity, saying, "These are inherited from some of my more colorful ancestors. So, there are one or two strange birds in the Darcy family tree. That's true of most families, isn't it?" Darcy placed the book back on the shelf and waved Bingley toward the door. "Get some rest, man. 'Tis not like you to be wandering the halls in the night."
Bingley sighed and said, "No. It is not like me. But I have not really been myself since we departed Hertfordshire."
Darcy looked at his friend sharply. Seeing this, Bingley looked away and walked toward the stairs, saying, "Good night, Darcy. Sleep well." Bingley continued sadly on to his room and quietly closed the door behind him.
Darcy went into his own room and removed his robe. He climbed under the covers and closed his eyes. He thought of Bingley's sad expression. It was obvious that his friend was pining for Miss Jane Bennet. Darcy thought back over the times he'd seen Bingley in company with Miss Bennet. Bingley had seemed very interested in her. She had seemed pleased by his attentions, but no more.
Darcy tried to recall if he'd seen indications of true affection from Miss Bennet towards his friend. He could not remember any such signs. The greatest enthusiasm for a match between Bingley and the eldest Miss Bennet seemed to come from that lady's mother. Darcy squirmed as he recalled the arguments he'd added as Bingley's sisters tried to turn their brother from his attachment to Jane Bennet. To keep his friend from returning to Hertfordshire, Darcy had appealed to one thing on which he could always rely—Bingley's sense of modesty. The possibility that Jane Bennet did not return his affections had affected Bingley deeply. Darcy hoped that he had been right in what he'd done. He briefly considered what Elizabeth's reaction would be were she to know. Uneasily, he put the thought from his mind.
The next afternoon a note arrived from Giles. He reported that Lizzy had dispatched two vampires in the gardens at Netherfield Park, but had met with no others. She was unhurt. Giles wrote that they both wondered when Darcy would return to Hertfordshire. Darcy's musings were interrupted as Georgiana came into the room.
Georgiana asked, "Do you like this piece, brother?" and showed him some sheets of music. Darcy replied that he did and smiled at Georgiana as she sat down at the pianoforte to learn the music. He looked at her in wonder. Two vampires in the gardens at Netherfield… It sounded as though her vision of the previous night had been accurate. She had seen the activities of the Slayer in her mind's eye.
A few minutes later, Darcy interrupted Georgiana quietly, "Georgiana, dearest?" She looked up at his inquiring tone. He continued hesitantly, "Will you tell me if you have another vision like the one you had last night?"
Her eyes grew wide at the mention of the vision she'd seen. She whispered, "Certainly." Seeing his attention return to the letter in his hand, Georgiana continued her practicing. She watched her brother from the corner of her eye. He seemed deep in thought.
The very next day Lydia and Kitty ran breathlessly into Longbourn house. Lydia cried out, "You'll never guess! Mr. Collins has made an offer of marriage to Charlotte Lucas!"
Kitty added, "And she has accepted him!"
Elizabeth gasped and said, "Impossible!"
It was possible. Charlotte Lucas had accepted the proposals of Mr. Collins. That night, Elizabeth dined with the Lucas family. Mr. Collins' behavior nearly made her ill. He rambled on and on to Sir William about the chimney piece at Rosings Park and other such nonsense. Then he turned to Elizabeth, and, taking hold of Charlotte's hand, proclaimed, "Cousin Elizabeth, you see before you the happiest of men. My dear Charlotte is perfectly made for me. You must come and visit us in Kent after we are married."
Elizabeth smiled at this invitation and muttered an appropriate reply about what a pleasure such a visit would be. Mr. Collins looked greatly relieved and pleased. He continued his conversation with Sir William as Elizabeth and Charlotte looked on. Elizabeth tried very hard to hide her mortification.
Charlotte spoke, "Mr. Collins certainly seems eager to part as friends with you, Lizzy. He insists that I invite you to visit us along with my father and sister at Easter. Please do, Lizzy. Really your company will be as welcome to me as either of them."
Hesitantly, Elizabeth agreed. Over Elizabeth's shoulder, Charlotte saw Mr. Collins' great grin of happiness as he overheard. She shook her head at his strange behavior. It was of no real concern to her if he continued to be attracted to her friend. So long as he led her into the state of matrimony, nothing else mattered. Charlotte smiled mildly.
Later, Elizabeth vented her feelings to Jane. "It was such a humiliating spectacle. She's marrying one of the stupidest men in all of England!"
Jane laughed at this description and responded kindly. "Mr. Collins is not the cleverest of men, but he is respectable. He does not seem to be vicious. It is an eligible match. You must allow that Charlotte has gained all that she ever claimed to seek in that regard."
Elizabeth shook her head in dismay at this and said, "You would never marry for such considerations, Jane!"
Jane smiled and said, "No. I would not. But I have not Charlotte's situation, Lizzy. Not everyone can marry for love. Some people marry for more material considerations."
Elizabeth smiled fondly at Jane and said, "Oh, Jane. You shall not have to make such a choice." Jane blushed and smiled in return. The two girls bid each other good night.
The next morning a note came for Jane. Elizabeth was with her and was alarmed at the expression that came over Jane's face. The happiness and anticipation they'd all felt in regards to Mr. Bingley only served to increase their pain at the news that he'd left the country. "Miss Bingley writes to tell me that the whole party has left Netherfield for London and with no intention of ever coming back!" said Jane in a voice laced with misery. As Elizabeth tried to comfort Jane, her own fingers went cold with shock. Did Darcy mean to return?
Elizabeth listened angrily as Jane read Miss Bingley's information of how they would spend much time with Miss Darcy, whom Miss Bingley hoped to call sister. Sister, indeed! That Miss Bingley was trying to turn the situation to her advantage and draw her family and the Darcy family closer together was very obvious. As Jane left the room looking broken-hearted, Elizabeth muttered to herself, "Caroline Bingley can't be human. It must be right to hunt her down and stake her." Ruefully Elizabeth admitted to herself that this was wishful thinking… nevertheless, it was a lovely thought.
That night, Elizabeth vented her anger somewhat as she slew a vampire in the cemetery at Meryton and then again later when she met another outside Netherfield. Standing alone in the moonlight, she decided that being the Slayer involved some satisfaction after all.
Darcy awoke late that night from an intoxicating dream. He lay back against the pillows and allowed the images to run through his mind for several minutes. Images of Elizabeth's eyes, her lips, her body... he was filled with longing and desire. He clenched his eyes tightly closed and put his hands over them, trying to drive the images away. It did not work.
He leapt up from the bed and threw cold water on his face. It did not work. He grew angry. Indulging in fantasies and dreams about her would do him no good whatsoever. She was the Slayer. He was her Watcher. He could not recall a single instance of a Slayer and Watcher marrying. It was not done! He did know that Giles had been in love with his Slayer, Jennifer, but that she had died soon after they became engaged. According to his father, Giles had never been the same since. The implication Old Mr. Darcy gave to his son was that Giles had failed his Slayer.
Thus it was that Darcy felt that distraction on his part could prove deadly to Elizabeth. He needed to focus on his duties and train her. His first duty was to keep her safe. He put on his robe and went downstairs to the library. He lit several candles. Looking around the room, he pondered the books that Bingley had derided the previous night. Indeed, they were all about dark subject matter. He picked up the book Bingley had brought to his attention.
Darcy sat in a chair before the fire and began to read. Hours later he closed the book and pondered the illustration on the front cover. The young woman was surrounded by demons. She was held by chains, with wounds across her neck and arms. The coven master stood before her slashing at his own chest in preparation of making her a vampire. Were a Slayer made undead, another could not be brought forth until the first was destroyed and the circle of darkness was broken. And who could kill a Slayer turned demon? This book disturbed Darcy so much that he decided it would be best to read another before attempting to return to sleep.
Darcy pulled another book from the shelf. It was the Watcher's Diary of Jean Philippe D'Arcy, his great grandfather. Darcy laughed out loud as he read an early entry. I began my work with Dominique, the vampire Slayer, tonight. Her strength is much greater than my own. How am I to train her without danger to myself? I was teaching her basic fisticuffs when a well placed blow from her rendered me unconscious. No permanent damage, except perhaps to my pride. Many similar moments in his training of Lizzy came to mind. Darcy smiled in amusement and took the book and a candle with him as he returned to his bedchamber.
As Jean Philippe's diary was written entirely in old French, it required careful attention for Darcy to translate. Concentrating on his studies cooled Darcy's passions effectively. He sighed, attempting to convince himself he felt content as he settled in and read some more. Darcy fell back to sleep with the diary in his hands.
When he awoke late the next morning he began to read the diary again. An entry pricked at his conscience. Jean Philippe wrote, I cannot allow personal matters to drive me from my duty as Watcher. I must learn to balance other matters with my duty. Though it is difficult, I have returned to Lyon to continue Dominique's training. She possesses extraordinary skill… and provides ever greater challenge. It is my duty to help her, to guide her... most importantly, to make certain that she is neither harmed nor killed.
Darcy reflected on this passage. He opened the drawer at his bedside and pulled out his own Watcher Diary and wrote in it for a long time. His last entry read, I vow that I will not do anything that might put my Slayer in harm's way. I will protect her in every way. I will train her and guide her. I will Watch. She will Slay We will complete our separate tasks and we will survive that way for many years to come. Darcy set the diary page under his blotter to dry. Then he packed a bag full of weaponry. His duty was clear. He would return to Hertfordshire that night.
Part Ten, Illuminating Information
Continuing her studies, Elizabeth knelt by the side of her bed and perused the choices before her. She was getting so dizzied from the amount of information in the books that she did not even care what she read next. She closed her eyes and waved her fingers around until they settled on a book. She opened her eyes to see what the afternoon held for her. She had selected a beautiful burgundy colored leather book with intricate carvings all across the front. It looked old and care-worn, but impressed her with its tasteful appearance.
She threw herself to the bed and settled in to read. The first page was inscribed, "Dominique- Le Fin." From there, the book's pages were covered entirely with a fine, beautiful script and was written entirely in French.
Pleased with her choice, Elizabeth read.
I know that Jean would chastise me for my melodrama in calling this my final diary, but I know it to be so. There have always been things that I knew that others did not, so I'll not begin questioning my instinct now. Were that Jean could chastise me! Had I been conscious I would never have allowed him to go for supplies for me that terrible, terrible night. Oh, that I had been awake! My poor Watcher!
Again, Jean would chastise me for my melodrama. What will Slayers of the future think of me? Slayers, whoever you may be, have mercy on this woman. I have been the Slayer for over twenty five years now. I have fought hard and well. I killed the Vessel before he could so enrich The Master as to bring about the Harvest. That success is enough to justify me in your eyes for all time! After all, the Harvest would mean an end to life as we know it. I feel I have earned some mercy, and indeed indulgence, from you.
Jean Philippe D'Arcy was my Watcher for over twenty four years. He taught me to survive and to fight well. He was harsh with me because he feared for me. He traveled the world in search of new methods of combat to teach me. He helped me to hone my skills and my mind so that I became an accomplished Slayer. My new Watcher knows that he will never take Jean's place. Somewhere in my heart I wonder if he wishes me to die so that he may leave Jean's shadow and start afresh with the new Slayer.
Watchers vary as much one to another as any other men. I have met other Watchers over these years. They have all shared the assessing and critical eye, but that is all. God in Heaven knows how I have fought to replace that criticism with admiration… so long ago. Now that my Watcher is dead the new Watcher regards me with the old criticism. It rankles my soul. At the same time I care not.
Oh, Slayer! That you might know the joy of working well with your Watcher! The job of the Watcher is to keep you alive, regardless of the words in the Charge. Yes, the Watcher must find you, guide you, train you. First and foremost, however, the Watcher must keep you alive. It was with that in mind that my Watcher risked the night roads alone and there met his death at the hands of The Master. Mark well, Slayer. Would your Watcher die for you? If not, seek out another.
Elizabeth sat up, her eyes wide with surprise. Seek out another? Replace Mr. Darcy? She gave the thought careful consideration. She had not known it possible. Would he die for her? She wondered. She laughed as she read back over the description of the 'critical eye,' as Dominique described it. It was too perfect!
She sat back against her pillows, the book cradled in her arms. Again she admired it. The pattern was amazing. Something about it… Holding the book at different angles, Elizabeth noted letters in the pattern. She pressed on each of the letters spelling the French word for 'Slayer.' Her curiosity was rewarded. The cover split down the side to reveal a velvet lined compartment. There was a piece of paper wrapped about an object. Her excitement mounting, Elizabeth pulled the paper free and unwrapped a beautiful broach. It just fit into the palm of her hand. The design was a series of interwoven crosses, all in diamonds and garnets.
She read the piece of paper. It said, Slayer, Please wear the enclosed pendant in remembrance of me. It was a gift from my beloved husband. I now give it to you. Live a long life. With Love, 'Dominique' Awestruck, Elizabeth held the pendant up and watched the sunlight gleam off the jewels. There was an inscription on the back. She could barely make it out. It said Psaume 59. Elizabeth made a mental note to herself to look up Psalm 59 in the family Bible.
She was amazed by the beauty and richness of the pendant. She certainly could not wear it in regular company! Her mother would spot it at a hundred paces and think she'd either become a mistress or stolen it. Elizabeth decided to ask Giles about it later.
That night Lizzy crept from the house to the edge of the trees looking for Giles. She stopped when she saw Darcy there instead. She smiled and said, "You have returned! I was sure that you and Mr. Bingley would not be away for long."
Darcy handed her Buttercup's reins, mounted Leicester, and replied awkwardly, "Mr. Bingley remains in London. He and his sisters are escorting my sister to a performance of the opera tonight. I shall be riding back and forth between London and Hertfordshire as often as I am able in order to continue your training." Darcy knew that if Bingley considered himself responsible for Georgiana he would not stray off by himself during the evening. He did not know of Miss Bingley's inference to Jane Bennet that Bingley and Georgiana were involved.
Therefore, he was puzzled by Lizzy's apparent anger. For her part, Lizzy thought Mr. Darcy to be in league with Miss Bingley to match their siblings together. Lizzy could not forget the way Mr. Bingley had looked when he was with Jane. She could not believe he could be in love with another girl, even if she were the high-and-mighty Georgiana Darcy that Mr. Wickham had told her of!
She saw Darcy glancing toward her shirt. Dominique's broach glinted in the moonlight.
Darcy was curious. The broach struck a familiar chord. He had seen it before, but could not remember where. Lizzy touched the broach gently and bit her lip, saying, "I was meaning to ask you about this. I found it in a diary belonging to a Slayer named Dominique. It was wrapped in this note." She handed the note to Darcy.
Darcy read over the note, all the while trying to remember where he had seen the broach before. Unable to recall, he shook his head and said, "Dominique was an unusually successful Slayer. My great grandfather was her Watcher. Hmm... this is the first I've ever heard of her having married… Anyway, such a gift can only bring you good fortune. I'm glad that you are reading her memoirs. I suppose you might say that I am reading a companion volume. I am reading Jean's first Watcher diary from the time he began working with Dominique. It is very illuminating."
Lizzy smiled coolly. "Dominique's diary is equally illuminating. You forgot to mention that I could choose to replace you if I felt it were in my best interests." With a challenging look, Lizzy rode ahead of Darcy on the road to Meryton.
Darcy followed. He chuckled and replied, "No Watcher would reveal such information early in working with a Slayer. It is my thankless job to see that you are prepared, not to become your favorite person." He urged Leicester on to keep up with Lizzy and Buttercup.
Lizzy shot back, "Have no fear, Mr. Darcy!"
Darcy looked at her with a bemused expression on his face.
Riding together, they went into Meryton to the grave yard. There were no vampires to be found. They continued on to Netherfield. There, they came upon three vampires laying in wait on the verandah.
Darcy managed to wound one with his sword as Lizzy dispatched the second. The third lunged at Darcy. Lizzy turned to the two vampires, kicking the wounded one so that she broke his knee and he landed hard on the ground. The other, a dark female, shrieked and ran. Lizzy fell to one knee and threw her stake with deadly accuracy. It fell into the dirt as the female vampire exploded into a cloud of dust. Meanwhile Darcy finished off the badly wounded vampire.
He looked up at Lizzy as she retrieved her stake. He commented, "You are getting quite good at that." He walked over to a bench and sat down to catch his breath.
She looked at him sharply and said, "Nice of you to notice."
He replied, "You are quite skilled. I am pleased with your progress."
Mollified, she nodded an acknowledgment. She brushed the dust from her pants leg and smoothed her shirt. She touched the broach fondly. She sat down next to Darcy on the bench. She asked, "Dominique said that Jean traveled all over the world to learn different combat techniques for her. Have you done the same?"
Darcy nodded and said, "The clans that Jean sought out have remained friendly to the cause of the Slayer for the past hundred or so years. I will begin bringing master warriors here to work with you over the next several weeks."
Lizzy nodded her approval and said, "Then I suppose I shall allow you to remain Watcher for me for a while longer. You seem to be making certain I am ready for whatever lies ahead." She shivered as she said this.
He asked, "Someone walk over your grave?"
She winced, "I'd rather avoid discussions of my grave if you don't mind. I don't think it is healthy to dwell on the hazards of this calling."
Darcy replied, "Perhaps not, but don't ignore your instincts either. You are special. You should trust your first impressions, your dreams, your visions. They all can give you valuable insight into your future." Lizzy thought about her dreams of late and shivered.
She attempted to inject levity into the moment, "You place stock in visions, Mr. Darcy? You are full of surprises."
Darcy merely nodded in reply.
Giles came walking up from the stables. "Shall I put your mount up for the evening, Miss?"
Lizzy nodded and gave Giles Buttercup's reins. She moved to begin walking back to Longbourn. Darcy said, "I can take you home. I am on my way to London now." He stood and mounted Leicester.
She took his hand and leapt up behind him, "You are going to ride back to Town alone in the dead of night? Are you insane?"
He replied, "It is necessary. I have many responsibilities to tend to. Know that I will come back as often as I am able. If I am unable to come to you for any extended period of time I shall send others who will assist you in your training."
Neither of them spoke again as they rode across the fields. When they arrived at Longbourn Lizzy saw that a light burned in Jane's room. Her sister had experienced much difficulty sleeping of late. Lizzy saw Darcy note the light too. Wanting to spare Jane embarrassment, Lizzy leapt down from Leicester without comment. Darcy pointed to the light, a questioning look on his face. Lizzy merely shrugged in reply.
Coldly, she said, "Safe journey, Watcher." She turned on her heel and walked into the house. Darcy watched her go, as puzzled as ever by her behavior.
Back at Netherfield, two young male vampires walked around the verandah area, retracing the brief battle between their fallen cohorts and the Slayer and Watcher. The taller of the two said, "See, Spike, I was right to make you stay back with me far from this battle. Had I allowed you to run headlong into the fray you'd be a dust pile, too."
The blond headed vampire, one William the Bloody, a.k.a. Spike, walked through one such dust pile carelessly and replied, "Yes, I see Sire. This Slayer is strong. I think Darla is just trying to thin the ranks by sending vampires here."
The taller vampire, Angelus, laughed uproariously at this. He pulled Spike close into his embrace. "Out of the mouths of babes! Tell me more, child."
Spike looked offended. He said, "I do not understand what you find so amusing. And do not call me that!" He sulked most appealingly. Angelus laughed again.
Suddenly Angelus leapt to the side, knocking Spike over as a bolt skimmed past. He looked up to see Giles advancing on them, crossbow at the ready. Angelus grabbed Spike by the shoulders and tossed him over the garden wall. As Giles fired again, Angelus leaped to the top of the wall. The next bolt from the crossbow stuck in his arm. Angelus grinned at Giles, pulled out the bolt, and said, "The heart, Giles. The heart! Don't you remember where it is?" Laughing, the demon leaped down into the garden as another bolt flew past. He led his fledgling in running away from Netherfield.
Giles threw the crossbow aside and shouted in rage as he fell to his knees, fists clenched tightly. He remained there for a long time, crying out his anguish.
Moments later, Angelus and Spike ran into Purvis Lodge. The Purvis family lay murdered in their beds. The house previously reviled only for its dreadful attics was now haven to a host of the undead. It was there that The Master currently held court.
In the main hall, The Master sat looking down at the vampiress kneeling before him. He said, "Well, at least Angel and his fledgling have survived. Welcome, children!" Angelus and Spike exchanged a look.
Angel whispered mockingly, "Aren't you going to tell him not to call you that?"
Spike snarled, glared at his sire, and turned away to focus his attention on The Master. Angelus moved forward and knelt next to Darla before The Master. The Master held out his hand and allowed Angelus to kiss it. The Master affectionately patted Angelus on the cheek and said, "Tell us what has happened at the home of the Bingley offspring."
Angelus looked up into his Master's eyes and said, "The dead Slayer's offspring are not there. There was no smoke from the chimneys of the great house. But the current Slayer and Watcher were patrolling there. They killed those who went with us. She is strong and fights well. Her Watcher assists her. After they left, Spike and I were also attacked, by the old Watcher named Giles."
The Master nodded. He said, "We shall avoid the property from now on. No more shall meet their end at Netherfield Park. On the right night and in the proper place we shall meet this Slayer again. On that night we shall prevail."
Darla protested, "But Master, the Slayer offspring! Vengeance should not be abandoned."
He smiled indulgently, "Darla, dearest, seek them in London. And learn, my sweet. It is not for the sake of vengeance that you seek the children of the dead Slayer. It is to prevent the birth of future Slayers. Our goal is to put and end to the Slayer and the families from which Slayers have come. As they seek to wipe out all of us, we seek to wipe out all of them."
Wickham stepped from the shadows and said, "What of the old Watcher? Shall we kill this Giles?"
Angelus jumped up from his knees and threw himself on Wickham. He knocked him to the ground and pinned him there. His face was no longer that of an angel. It was now that of an angry demon. He pulled back and slapped Wickham's head back and forth several times until Darla lay a restraining hand on his arm. Angelus glared at Darla and yelled at Wickham, "Who gave you permission to speak?! You are nothing but a weak fledgling. You have no right to interrupt The Master!"
Darla knelt next to Angelus and kissed him over and over to distract him. She cooed, "You are right, of course, my Angel. My fledgling was very wrong to speak so. But he could not know that you have forbidden the old man's death. It has not been talked of in many years. Let him go. Be calm." She ran her hands through Angelus' hair and down his back. He forgot about the fledgling pinned beneath him and returned her kiss and embrace as Wickham watched angrily.
Darla led Angelus away from Wickham and back toward The Master. The Master smiled broadly at Angelus.
Wickham crawled back into the shadows and wiped his blood from his face. He looked up fearfully as he heard Spike growl at him. He was surprised when Spike offered him a hand up. Spike whispered an explanation, "Can't tell you how many times he's knocked sense into me. Just stay back here out of the way. Only Angelus and Darla are allowed to speak freely here. The rest of us are merely to pay homage." The two fledglings returned their attention to their Master.
The Master stood, raised his arms, and cried, "Be still, my children! Rejoice! We welcome a new member to our family this night. This child is an offering cementing the peace between us and the one who will guarantee our safe future."
The Master gestured toward a pale young woman being led into the room by two very large vampires. As she caught sight of The Master, the girl screamed piteously for her mother and struggled against her captors. They led her before The Master and held her still as he lowered his fangs to her neck. She slumped helplessly in the grasp of the two fiends. Some moments later The Master opened his shirt and slashed at his own chest. He threw his head back and growled viciously as the large vampires placed the girl's lips against his wound. As the first drop of blood entered her mouth her eyes opened wide. She then began to ferociously suck The Master's blood.
Angelus asked Darla, "Who is she?"
Darla replied, "Her name is Anne DeBourgh. She is the promised bride of the new Watcher. Now she'll make him a proper wife, don't you think?" She grinned in delight.
The Master pushed the newest of his creations away from him. She stood before him, fangs bared, hissing hungrily. He smiled on her and said, "Darla, Angelus, take my new child out for her first hunt. Be careful to avoid the Slayer. She must be kept safe. That is part of the bargain."
Anne turned and looked at the two appointed to keep her safe. She growled, "I fear nothing now. Now I am something to be feared!"
The Master laughed at her audacity as she left the lodge, her guardians trailing along behind.